Being a good neighbor is more than just having a cup of sugar at the ready in case the couple next door runs out. Practicing neighborhood etiquette benefits you and the people living near you by forming friendships and avoiding tensions before they arise. Knowing your neighbors gives you a sense of well-being and makes it less awkward to run over and ask for a package that was accidentally delivered to the wrong house. 

Here’s the definitive guide on being a good neighbor.

Know thy neighbors

The first thing is getting to know your neighbors. Neighborhoods have all types—the crankies, the super-friendlies, the rudies, the ones you never see and whose existence you question. The gist: get to know who’s who so you can be an extra good neighbor by leaving the loners alone, being chatty with the chatters, and being extra sweet and helpful to the super old folks two doors down.  

Easy ways to get to know the neighbors:

  • Knock on the door and introduce yourself.
  • Invite them over for a casual cocktail if you’re on friendly terms.
  • Sit on the porch so you can watch them come and go.
  • Walk the ‘hood so you can wave and chat — wave when you see them, and chat when you cross paths.
  • Host or attend block parties each summer.
  • If you see them struggling with something — the car won’t start or they’re trying to move a large thing, offer to help.
  • Apologize in person if your cat eats their garden or your kid breaks their bird feeder.

Keep it down

Everyone makes noise, but depending on where you live, you may need to be more conscious of being noisy. Apartment life requires a bit more attention to noise than living in the suburbs,- but unless you’re living an isolated life in the country, you’ll need to avoid letting things get too loud. 

In your apartment building

Apartment living is great so long as you and your neighbors are respectful of each other. 

Be quiet in the hallways. 

Don’t hoot-n-holler in the hallway with your friends at 1 a.m. or get into a shouting match with your significant other while you’re bringing in the groceries.

Keep it down after 8 pm and very quiet after 10 pm.

Turn the tunes down a couple notches once the clock strikes 8 and maybe wear headphones after 10 pm, or at least keep Armageddon at a reasonable volume. 

Don’t stomp around if people live below you.

We’ve all had those neighbors who seem to rearrange their furniture on a weekly basis. Put a pad under your office chair, and try to walk softly instead of storming across your apartment.

Don’t slam your doors.

Your neighbors will hear it if you slam your doors. We’re not saying you have to slowly and gently pull it closed, but do try to stop yourself from slamming your bedroom door like an angsty teenager. 

In your neighborhood

Keep the noise down and your neighbors will thank you. 

Use power tools at realistic times.

It’s probably a good idea to hold off on using the power tools until after 10 am, and put them away before 8 pm. This includes things like the leaf blower, the lawnmower, your power sander, and the chainsaw. 

Take the party inside at 10.

Celebrating the summer with drinks and grilled burgers on the patio sounds delightful. Just be sure to bring the festivities inside by 10 to save your neighbors from hearing you having a good time while they’re trying to sleep. 

Be aware during open-window season

Even if you’re inside, your neighbors will be able to hear your screaming kids playing, spouses fighting, and loud music wafting through the neighborhood.

Keep the car quiet.

Replace your muffler if you need a new one, and deter your teens from revving the engine or honking the horn when they pull up. 

Maintain your place

You don’t want to be THAT neighbor, bringing down everyone’s home value and enjoyment of the neighborhood with your broken down cars on blocks in the front yard.

In your apartment building

Keep the area right outside your apartment clean.

Take out your garbage. 

Don’t stink up the place, and don’t put it in the hallway.

Maintain your doorstep area. 

Wash your welcome mat and sweep or vacuum the space if it’s not done by management. 

In your neighborhood

Maintain your home’s exterior to at least the same level as your neighbors maintain theirs.

Mow the lawn. 

You don’t want to be the house with overgrown weeds and foot-long grass while your neighbors’ lawns are freshly mown and cared for. Mow your lawn on the regular when the weather allows.

Shovel the sidewalk.

Having a bunch of snow and ice on your sidewalk isn’t a good look when the neighbors have all cleared theirs off. Keeping your sidewalk shoveled makes it easier for you and your neighbors to get around. 

Keep the front yard free of junk and toys.

Bring all the toys in when your kids are done for the day. Call a junk removal service instead of leaving defunct appliances or your old couch on the front lawn.  

Give your home curb appeal.

Make your home look inviting. Paint the front door or shutters, keep junk off the porch, and install sidewalk lights. 

Take out the garbage and recycling each week.

Don’t let it build up. Take containers back to the house once they’re empty.

Be a responsible pet owner

Not everyone loves pets, especially if they’re ornery. Take responsibility for your pet, and be respectful of your neighbor’s privacy and concerns.

In your apartment building

Be extra mindful of the odors and noises your pet produces in the close quarters of an apartment building. 

Keep the litter box clean. 

You don’t want to smell your cat’s litter box — and neither do your neighbors. Keep the litter box clean so that the odors don’t waft next door.

Keep the dog quiet.

Train your dog to stop barking at the neighbors. If your fur baby won’t stop, maybe let your neighbors know that your dog barks, and apologize for any disturbance it causes.  

Clean up their outdoor messes.

Take poop bags on the walk. Dogs heed the call of nature wherever it strikes them but try to prevent them from peeing or pooping on your neighbor’s lawn, even if you’re going to clean it up immediately. 

In your neighborhood

Stay on your neighbor’s good side by keeping your pet under control.  

Keep your dog on a leash.

You know your Great Dane wouldn’t hurt a fly, but your neighbors — especially if they’re new — probably don’t. Some people are scared of dogs and you don’t want to freak your neighbors out. Keep your dog on a leash when you go on walks or have them out on the porch. 

Don’t let your dog bark all day.

It’s not so bad in the winter when everyone’s inside with the windows closed. But if you’ve got a barker, you’re probably driving the neighbors nuts when doggo is outside or inside with the windows open. Offer your dog a distraction, teach them the “quiet” command, or try closing the blinds so they don’t have the visual trigger of seeing the mailman walk by each morning. 

Clean up the caca.

Do not let your dog do business on the neighbor’s lawn unless you pick it up. Even then, avoid letting your pet poop on a lawn that isn’t your own, especially if your neighbor spends a lot of time caring for their yard. 

Be a respectful party host

Everyone likes to let loose and have fun, but don’t let your gatherings get out of hand. Follow these tips to keep the party respectful.   

In your apartment

Being mindful of your neighbors is even more important if you live in an apartment building. 

Respect the community rules.

If your building limits gatherings to a certain number of people, don’t go over the limit. The limits are in place to prevent gatherings from getting too noisy and breaking safety codes. 

Warn your neighbors.

If you’re having a shindig that might get noisy, let the neighbors know ahead of time, and ask them to let you know if it’s too loud. Invite them, if it’s appropriate!

Tell your guests where to park.

Don’t let them park in tenants’ spots or block other driveways.

Keep it down after 10.

Turn down the music, and ask your guests to avoid shouting or laughing too loudly.

Clean up the next day.

Check outside your door and outside the building to ensure guests didn’t leave empty bottles or cigarette butts in common spaces.

In your neighborhood

Hosting a party in a house means you can get away with being noisier than if you were in an apartment, but you still need to keep your neighbors in mind. 

Let the neighbors know.

If you’re having an outdoor party that’s going to go on late, give your block a heads-up. Invite them if you wish. Tell ‘em to come over or call you if it’s too loud instead of calling the cops.

Make sure guests park nicely.

Ask them to avoid blocking your neighbors’ driveway.

Turn it down at 10.

Unless all of your neighbors are at the party, turn down the noise level outside at 10. If you move the party inside, keep the windows shut. If your neighbors are very closeby, ask guests to keep it down.

When your neighbors are the partiers

Cut them some slack if possible. If it’s too damn loud, talk to them instead of calling the fuzz, or put on some noise-canceling headphones. If they invite you, stop by for a while and get to know them better. Call the police only as a last resort – if you’ve asked your neighbors to keep it down multiple times and they refuse, you might need to call in reinforcements. 

Follow the building/neighborhood rules

Whether you live in an apartment complex with listed rules or you belong to a homeowner’s association, making sure you know what the rules are and following them will keep you friendly with the neighbors. In an apartment building, find out the rules about guests, parties, parking, and using and maintaining common spaces. In a house, learn your homeowner’s association’s rules and regulations, including whether you can park on the street, have certain lighting, and paint your house a certain color.

Welcome new neighbors

Introduce yourself and take them a welcome basket or casserole. Offer your help — ”if you ever need anything, let us know…” — and give them your phone number. Give your neighbors a lowdown of the ‘hood, but don’t say anything bad about any of the other neighbors. Offer to help them out with getting to know the city if they’re new in town. Maybe host a party so the other neighbors can get to know them. 

Lend a helping hand

Being neighborly means helping neighbors out. How much depends on how well you know them… (right?)

  • Help the old man, disabled lady, or single mom shovel out their car or clear the driveway after a snowstorm. If you have a snowblower and no one else does, heck, do the sidewalk for everyone!
  • Help them find a lost pet.
  • Help out during tragedy.
  • Check-in if you haven’t seen ‘em for awhile.
  • Keep an eye out, especially if they’re out of town.
  • Offer to check the mail or pet sit if they’re going away.

Things that should go without saying:

Some things are obvious no-no’s, and you probably don’t need to be told, but here they are anyway. Remember the Golden Rule and all that.

  • Don’t trespass, and don’t let your kids trespass.
  • Don’t steal or vandalize your neighbor’s political signs.
  • Don’t be the neighborhood gossip (or do – someone’s gotta be).
  • Apologize when you mess up.
  • Let your neighbors know if you’ll be doing any major renovations, like installing a pool or building an extension onto your home, so they can prepare for loud noises and potential debris. 

Knowing your neighbors doesn’t just mean having someone to help dig your car out of the snow or help lure the raccoons out from under your porch. Being friends with the people you live near will make summer barbeques more fun and give you peace of mind knowing someone’s got your back should anything shady go down in your neighborhood.